Better Now

"Does it have to be like this? I mean, we've got video footage! He shouldn't have to go through all of this!" Emily exclaimed, her voice echoing in the courthouse around them.

"We have footage of the torture; we have nothing other than Reid's testimony as to what happened when Harrington was killed," Hotch explained. "I don't like it any more than you do, but this is the only way. I doubt this'll take more than two hours to get through. No judge in their right mind would bother taking this to trial."

"Alright," she sighed. "I don't like it, though."

"None of us do."

While Spencer spoke, he never looked up. He stared at his hands the entire time, words gushing from his mouth and not stopping, just like his tears.

The room itself was only filled with about thirty people, but that was more than enough. He could feel every pair of eyes on him, watching every move, hanging on every word. He wanted to run out of there several times. He wanted to run screaming and never be found again. But he kept talking.

All he had to talk about was when and how he killed Master, and why he was forced to do it.

"And…and I…I shot him. If I didn't he…he would have killed me. I didn't have a choice." He finally looked up, swallowing hard. He met Morgan's eyes immediately. He smiled a little, making Spencer feel a little better.

"Well," Judge Collins said, clearing his throat and looking down at the young man. "I think that much is apparent, Dr. Reid. Hardest part about this case is the paperwork. Self defense." He banged the gavel on the counter and Spencer stood, shutting his eyes and sighing.

He walked back over to his friends, utterly relieved. It was almost over. It had to be…

Little things were slowly coming back to him. He remembered how to cook out of nowhere the other day. The motions simply dawned on him.

Marybelle was sentenced to life in prison for battery, aiding in kidnapping, accessory to murder and attempted murder. No parole.

The nightmares grew less intense. His fear of others around him lessened. He could actually talk and look at people he didn't know and not be completely afraid that they would hurt him. But he was still scared.

He wasn't ready to go back to work yet, but, regardless, he took an interest in the cases that the team was working on. Gideon even came to ask him questions sometimes.

Gideon also started asking him about the profiles of criminals. What are the characteristics of a serial arsonist? A narcissist? A psychotic? A rapist? Power assurance, power reassurance?

Talking about sadists and violent schizophrenics were one thing, rapists were another. He didn't want to think about that. The first time Gideon brought it up he started to shake so violently his teeth chattered. He buried his face in his hands, shaking his head, that voice screaming in his ears.

Gideon had to literally shake him before he snapped out of it. "Spencer, Spencer!" He barked, waiting for the boy's eyes to focus. "It's alright. It's alright. Shh…"

"I-I'm sorry," Spencer stammered, tears on his face. "I, I-"

"Shh…hush, it's alright. You have to be able to deal with this, Spencer," he said gently. "You have to be able to talk about this. You can't work if you don't."

"Okay," he gulped. "Okay…"

"Shh…" Gideon hugged him for awhile, but not nearly as long as he would've had to six months before. He was getting better, at least he was trying to.

It had been a year since he'd been rescued from that basement. It had been a year since he'd jumped at every sound, waiting for that man to come for him again. To hurt him, to beat him, to rape him. A year since that man had died and he'd regained his hope and his will to live. And it had taken this time for him to be able to live alone again.

Morgan stayed with him that first week. They unpacked boxes, most of them books, actually nearly all of them books, and tried to get everything as close to normal as it used to be.

It never would be the same. None of it would be the same again, no matter how hard he tried. Things were different now, in some way shape or form.

That first night alone was torture. He left every light in the house on. He only slept for maybe an hour, but he slept. He'd looked at the phone several times, wondering if he should call Morgan.

"If you need anything, just call me, alright, Kid?" He had said. But he didn't. He could do this, he could do this.

Slowly, night by night, he turned off another light in another room until finally he could sleep in the dark. It was hard when he woke up from a nightmare, alone. Sometimes they were so bad he'd curl in a ball and sob.

He was alright. He was getting better. The real test was, could he come back to work? Well, no sense in not trying.

Could he stomach seeing crime scene photos? Could he go through a case, listen to victims testimonies and keep a strong front? He hoped so. He could at least try.

It was hard, very hard to do. He knew what these people went through before they died. What they were thinking. But he had to listen to Morgan, who told him to use it to his advantage, to help him work.

Rossi was staying with the team for another couple of weeks to "wrap up a few things" but he knew better. It was in case he couldn't take the pressure, couldn't take the victims or the unsubs. He was quieter than before. It took him awhile to engage himself in the briefings of the case, but Gideon helped with that, telling him to speak. He soon caught on to the pattern, reminding himself that he could speak on his own.

Everything was alright for awhile. The cases were normal, well, as monstrously normal as they usually were.

But there was one that they were all certain he wouldn't be able to do, one they thought would touch too close to home and he would have to sit this one out with Garcia. Quite the contrary, however.

He ended up being the most helpful resource they could have asked for.

Young men were disappearing. They were kept and sexually abused for two months to the day until they were killed and dumped in the same place they had disappeared from.

There were massive welts all over the body from the restraints that had been put on them, a type of chord.

Spencer knew how to find the man. He knew what to expect was being done to the victim, helping them with the profile. It wasn't long before they found the unsub's house.

They raided the house, each of them storming in all directions, looking for the unsub.

That wasn't Spencer's priority. Spencer was looking for Mark Thompson, who'd been missing for two months tomorrow.

He walked down the stairs, through the small door that most people wouldn't notice. But he was looking for it.

Mark was strapped down to a rickety wooden chair that resembled something a dentist would use. Black chords were pulled tightly over his biceps and his forearms, forcing his hands behind the chair.

More chord was used to hold down his chest and his neck. There were straps on his thighs, hooking up through his groin and going over his stomach. There were even strips of it in his mouth, gagging him. A blindfold was tied over his eyes.

Spencer's stomach flipped.

He knew what that felt like. He knew exactly what it was like, listening to someone come for you while you're totally helpless.

Mark trembled more and more the closer he got, whimpering, crying and shaking his head.

"Hey, hey, it's alright," he assured, carefully taking the cloth from his fearful, swollen eyes. "Shh…It's alright. Shh…" He carefully tugged the chord out of his mouth.

"Please, please, don't hurt me!" He begged.

"Shh, I'm not gonna hurt you. It's alright. My name is Dr. Spencer Reid, I'm with the FBI. I'm here to help you. I'm going to get this off of you, alright?" He carefully got each chord off of him, wincing when the wounds underneath were bloody.

He quickly got him off the table and wrapped a blanket around him, tight.

"Shh…shh…he can't hurt you anymore. Shh…"

He told Mark that he would be alright. He stayed with him in the ambulance, making sure only one person touched him at a time. He told him that if he needed to know how to get through this that he could call him.

"Thank you," he choked. "Thank you, so much…"

I didn't talk much the rest of the night. I was about to go into my hotel room when Morgan grabbed my shoulder.

"Kid, if you need to talk I'm right next door," he assured. I gave him a half-smile.

"Thanks but, I'm alright," I assured, nodding.

I wasn't. I saw the look in Mark's eyes, that look that reflected how I had felt, how I still felt sometimes. Mark would be alright, but he would never be the same. There would always be something that he could never do again that didn't bother him before.

I could never listen to "Hurts So Good" ever again. The sound of a chain rattling sent goosebumps shooting up I spine.

I stood, running my fingers through my hair, exasperated. I went into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. I turned on the water and stepped back, unbuttoning my shirt.

I stopped for a moment, looking at myself in the mirror. The bruises were gone, but there were scars left. My wrists were still in shambles from the cuffs. I could still see the outline in my shoulder where he'd shot me. My left arm was slightly off, just a little kink in how it hung at my side.

"Hold still, BOY!" I shuddered, pushing my hair out of my face again. I'd cut most of it off, surprising everyone else. I didn't want to feel the echo of his fingers in my hair anymore.

I shuddered again, this time in revulsion, looking away from myself. I finished undressing and got into the shower. I hated being naked, hated it. I felt helpless and weak all over again.

I hung my head, listening to his voice in my head. Most days I was alright. Most days, I could get through this and be just fine. Sometimes the memories something sparked weren't that bad. This was a horrible night. I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.

I got out of the shower, shaking. I sat on my bed for over an hour, my eyes shut, hands folded, tears sliding down my cheeks. Every sound in the semi-dark room made me jump.

I hesitated five times before finally standing and leaving the room. I stood in front of the door across the hall, hesitating some more before I finally knocked.

Morgan opened the door, rubbing his tired eyes. "Hotch, man, we don't have to be up for another four hours," he mumbled before he saw me. I chewed my lip, tears in my eyes. He frowned, worry in his eyes. "Reid, somethin' wrong?"

"Does…does that offer still stand?" I breathed.

"C'mon, Kid."

He hugged me. That's all he had to do. It made me feel better. I cried hard, knowing that someday, I'd be alright again.

Five months later…


He broke into an embarrassed grin. "What's this about?"

"You missed three years worth of birthdays, Reid," Morgan grinned. J.J. walked over, grabbing his arm and dragging him toward the cake.

"Do I have to?" He giggled.

"I'll make you wear that hat again," she threatened.

"Alright, alright!" He threw up his hands in defeat, sitting down.

"Alright, you have presents baby cakes!" Garcia exclaimed.

"Looks like he's doing better," Rossi said. Gideon nodded.

"Seems like," he said, smiling a little. "You gonna go back into retirement?"

"I'll probably pick up the book tour again," he nodded. "Go hunting again. And if you guys need me, I'm a phone call away."

"Well, it was nice having you around, Dave."

"Good to be around," he chuckled. "But I think they missed that kid more."

Almost as if he heard their conversation, Spencer stood and walked over to them. "I heard you were leaving," he said, frowning. Rossi nodded.

"Well, the team doesn't need me anymore. I was just filling in until you got back anyway." Spencer smiled.

"Thank you, then. By the way I read your books and I found that…" He was talking so fast no one could understand him.

Gideon smiled and shook his head, walking away, passing Hotch.

"What's going on?" He asked.

"Reid's rambling." Hotch sighed.

"Sweet normalcy."



-Where do I even begin? Thank you to everyone who has followed this story from day one, and the rest of you that came in later! You all were fantastic and I thank you for every single review I have received for this. Thanks to you who read, those who reviewed and those who critiqued. I would also like to send a special thanks to Lizzie Reid. Without her, this story wouldn't have been possible. God bless all of you and I hope to hear from you all again. P.S. if you like this, check out my other equally as horrifying fic "Worst Case Scenario". Farewell.-